At 7 p.m. Thursday at Jungle Island, three Hurricane football greats will be part of a class of eight former UM athletes inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.
I covered all three when they played at UM, and had a great time last week chatting with each one of them separately about their memories and thoughts about being inducted.
Santana Moss, Dan Morgan and Reggie Wayne were part of a phenomenal class in more ways than just talent. These were the guys who came to UM during the NCAA sanctions, knowing UM would be losing before it started winning again. These were the guys who vowed to bring the program back. These were the guys who had so much pride, and by their senior year, set the table for their successors in 2001 to win the national championship.
Moss, Morgan and Wayne never got that national title, mainly because all three had to play as true freshmen following severe scholarship sanctions that saw the Canes lose 31 scholarships over three seasons. But they told me they wouldn't have changed a thing. They helped guys like Ken Dorsey and Ed Reed grow up, and still regret deeply losing that 34-29 game at Washington the second game of 2000 -- Dorsey's first start on the road at quarterback.
When you think of that incredible 34-game win streak that started the game after the Washington loss and ended with the loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, you realize that these guys were the ones who got the first 10 games of that streak going, and the ones who came so close to getting in the title game (they were bypassed in the BCS by a fraction by the Seminoles, whom the Canes defeated during the regular season), only to watch FSU lose to Oklahoma in the national championship.
Here are some of their comments during our conversations:
Morgan, who did the pregame Dolphins and Canes shows for WQAM last year, and would like to get into NFL scouting:
"That was the time nobody wanted to come to Miami, but we all had that desire and that love to play Miami Hurricane football. It didn't matter what happened in the past. We knew we wanted to bring it back. We took it as a challenge and we worked our butts off, everyday pushing each other. The result is we finished No. 2 in the nation and I think at the end of the year we were the best team in the nation. We didn't get the opportunity to play Oklahoma, but if we did, the outcome would be different.''
"Me, Santana and Reggie playing our true freshman year, it was almost surreal. We grew so much that year and learned so much because we got our butts beat every week. It made us stronger."
Morgan on Al Golden: "I hear that he's a great recruiter. He brings the same kind of mentality that Butch Davis did. He is going to recruit guys not because they're five-star athletes, but guys he feel will fit into his system and the type of personalities he wants.''
"I got an email from my manager telling me the University of Miami was trying to contact me because I was to be inducted this year. I was like 'What?!!' I was so flattered. I called her baack to make sure she knew what she was talking about. That's one of the highest honors I could possibly get.
"Those memories of UM are with me every day. I see a lot of those guys. Me and Reggie and Reed, I see them all the time. Delvin Brown, he's a police officer on the beach. I'm always bumping into him when I'm on the beach."
Moss on how he would characterize his class: "I just think we were one of the classes that changed everything back around. When we came in there was so much going wrong, between the probation and lack of scholarships. So many of us played as freshmen -- me, Reggie, Darryl Jones, Dan. By our sophomore and junior years, we were light years ahead of the guys who were starting to play against us. That's why we were so dominant when we got into our later years.
"I was just happy to have an opportunity to stay home. My senior year at Carol City we went to state and won state and I was a big difference in us winning that year. Knowing that the schools that wanted me weren't really big schools, and that UM said, 'Hey, we've been looking at your for track, but we will allow you to come play football if you walk on,' that was like a no-brainer. I took it and ran with it. That was a chance for me to stay home and be close to my family and still do what I love to do.''
Moss on Al Golden: "I haven't met him yet, but I heard he's a great coach. I heard he's a coach that pretty much is going to install what these players need so they can learn how to be the U again. A lot of guys told me he's a great recruiter. I just hope he goes out there and gets these guys fired up to play some good football again.''
"To me, getting inducted is the biggest honor I could get in college football.
"That particular year was a special year. We had a special group of guys who came in and played very young. In 1997 we had a rough year, finished 5-6. No depth. If we would have redshirted, things would have been REALLY scary [in 2001]. But we moved on after showing them the way. I still love the way it all happened.
"I committed to LSU verbally and changed my mind the last minute because there was something about that trip to Miami. The brotherhood of all those players there at the time is still with me. At Miami you can get that one-on-one with your teacher. At LSU you were like No. 217. I looked at the graduation rate and all those things -- and it was hard to turn down palm trees. I had never seen a palm tree before.
"The years do go by fast. I broke the record for receptions against West Virginia my senior year. (He laughed) I pray each year [it isn't broken]."
Wayne on seeing other former UM players during NFL games: "We always talk before and after games. First thing we say to each other is, 'Man, did you check them out yesterday?' because we play on Sundays. We talk about whether the Canes won or lost.''
Wayne on Al Golden, who he was planning on meeting for the first time this week: "I just think this change will help -- a breath of fresh air. They need some leadership and they need some discipline and from what I understand about Coach Golden, that's something he specializes in.''
On UM strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey: "Swasey has been the key to my career, man. He's been the key to my career. I haven't missed a game since my rookie year -- knock on wood -- and I credit the majority of that, if not all of it, to my workouts in the offseason.''
The other five former UM greats who will be inducted Thursday: Divers Tyce Routson and Daphne Jongejans-Bousquet, women's tennis coach Ian Duvenhage, baseball player Bobby Hill, and track-and-fielder Yolanda McCray.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN